On 17 June 1914 the large navigation canal between Berlin and Stettin was opened. Near Niederfinow the difference in elevation was overcome using a staircase lock with four chambers. One can still see some remains of these locks today.
The capacity of the staircase locks was quickly exceeded, therefore, between 1927 and 1934, the boat lift was built and inaugurated on 21 March 1934. The lift is 60 m high, the length 94 m, taking five minutes for the trough to move through the 36m elevation difference. The following enterprises were involved:
Foundations and steel structure of the aqueduct
By 26 January 1939 100,000 boats had already passed through the lift. In the inaugural year there was 2,832,000 tonnes of traffic.
The lift was the subject of a general overhaul in 1980 and the lifting cables were renewed in 1984/85.
Today the boat lift is too short for some barge trains which must be separated to pass the lift. The lift is running near to its capacity with about 11,000 boats passing through each year, so in 1997 the decision was made to build a new, bigger lift.
The Niederfinow lift is a popular tourist destination with about 500,000 visitors per year. Due to this a new larger car park was opened in 2003.
The boat lift consists of 14,000 Tonnes of riveted structural steelwork standing on steel columns. The Oder-Havel-Kanal approaches the head of the lift on a 4,000 Tonne riveted steelwork aqueduct. The trough when filled weighs 4,290 tonnes and hangs on 256 steel cables, these cross over guide rollers and support 192 counterweights which balance the trough. The security of the lift is maintained by keeping half the cables in tension and the other half relaxed in reserve. The guide rollers have a diameter of 3.5m.
Pin gearing with D.C.motors in Leonards electric motor speed controllers, connected together by a shaft allow a symmetrical drive. This arrangement allows the exact synchronisation of the four pin gears. The four Leonard controllers each have an output of 55 kilowatts totalling 220 kilowatts. Four worm geared shafts are driven which intersect with internal threads built into the troughs. These move freely under normal circumstances but would seize if a cable broke providing extra safety.
New boat lift
Because of the continuing increase in traffic on the Oder-Havel-Kanal, in 1997 it was decided that a new, bigger lift should be built next to the present one. Earthworks between the lift and the old staircase locks began in autumn of 2006. The new lift, which was built by Bilfinger Berger and developed in partnership with Johann Bunte, was finished in October 2022. The trough is 125.5 metres (412 ft) long and 15 metres (49 ft) wide and weighs 2,785 tonnes (3,070 tons)—and some 9,800 tonnes (10,800 tons) when filled with water. The final cost was 520 million euros, almost twice as much as originally planned. The old lift will remain in use however until at least 2025.
- Schinkel, Eckhard, Das alte Schiffshebewerk Niederfinow, Bundesingenieurkammer (ed.), Berlin: Bundesingenieurkammer, 2007, (=Historische Wahrzeichen der Ingenieurbaukunst in Deutschland; vol. 1), ISBN 978-3-9807281-4-0
- Uhlemann, Hans-Joachim (2002). Canal lifts and inclines of the world (English Translation ed.). Internat. ISBN 0-9543181-1-0.
- Das Original, Berliner Zeitung, 16 October 2006 in German
- German Ship Lift Rebuilt as Stimulus Floods Waterways
- "JOHANN BUNTE Bauunternehmung GMBH & Co. KG | Bildmaterial". Archived from the original on 2011-09-26. Retrieved 2011-06-26.
- "Neues Schiffshebewerk steht nach 13 Jahren Bauzeit vor der Eröffnung". www.rbb24.de (in German). Retrieved 2022-12-17.
- "BMDV - Jahrhundertbauwerk für den Schiffsverkehr freigegeben". bmdv.bund.de. Retrieved 2022-12-17.
- Kuiper, Jeroen (2012). "Verticaal varen". De Ingenieur. Veen Magazines. 124 (10/11): 58–61. ISSN 0020-1146.
- The German article from which this article was translated
- "Canal Ship Raised 118 Feet In Five Minutes", September 1930, Popular Science in English
- Niederfinow Lift Lock at Structurae
- Wasser- und Schifffahrtsamt Eberswalde: Niederfinow boat lift, in German
- New boat lift, in German
- Wasserstraßen-Neubauamt Berlin: Niederfinow boat lift, in German
- Private Homepage of the new boat lift at Niederfinow, in German
- Johann Bunte's Company Website, in German